Title page for ETD etd-07132005-131942

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Gaines, Jina Nicole
Author's Email Address jigaines@vt.edu
URN etd-07132005-131942
Title The Tension Between Opportunity and Outcome: The University of Michigan's Supreme Court Cases on Affirmative Action and the Implications of Cultural Expectations
Degree Master of Arts
Department Communication Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Holloway, Rachel L. Committee Chair
Tedesco, John C. Committee Member
Waggenspack, Beth M. Committee Member
  • Supreme Court
  • Affirmative action
  • Cultural Theory
Date of Defense 2005-06-20
Availability unrestricted
America is diverse in its culture of ideas and ways of life. This makes for a complex negotiation of issue positions and justifications when attempting to resolve public issues. It is essential therefore, that organizations not only understand but also cater to and adapt to the variety of cultural expectations and interpretations that may guide their various stakeholder publics when creating messages about controversial issues.

One of the most controversial issues our society faces today is affirmative action. The rationales for the different stances people take on this topic vary greatly, revealing both opportunities and barriers to resolve a long-standing, contentious political issue. This thesis describes and analyzes reactions to two 2003 Supreme Court cases that examined the University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policies: Gratz, et al. v. Bollinger, et al. and Grutter et al v. Bollinger, et al. The cases were the first time the Supreme Court had addressed affirmative action since the 1978 Bakke case. It was also the first time that the Court would debate whether or not diversity is truly a compelling state interest and what constitutes a fair and legal process by which to achieve it. Mediated accounts of the debate were examined in order to offer insight into contemporary interpretations of a recurring issue. By looking at how the media framed the issue, policymakers, politically-involved citizens, public relations practitioners can better understand the political climate in which they work, and thereby allowing them to better craft their communication efforts. Cultural Topoi, developed from Cultural Theory was used as a lens through which to examine the complexity of American political principles in these cases and values in this changing landscape of social expectations and public policy.

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